Alec Head, Reference Librarian and Rachel Union, Library Assistant
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) joins the country in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 – October 15. In honor of this event and its relevance to Texas history, TSLAC is highlighting resources in our collection that can aid researchers studying their own Hispanic heritage and genealogy. TSLAC has numerous publications and government records to assist family historians. We invite the public to visit us during the week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. to start your journey or come in when we open for our monthly Second Saturday hours from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Second Saturday in October happens October 14, 2023.
TSLAC’s collections contain a variety of materials that could be helpful to researchers studying their Hispanic heritage. This post highlights genealogy publications along with examples of government records on microfilm. The books listed below are currently on display in TSLAC’s Reference Reading Room. Other items in our collections can be found by searching the library catalog. Information on our location and hours can be found on our “Visit Us” webpage.
The Charro Days fiesta began in 1938 in Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, its sister city across the Rio Grande, as a recognition of Mexican heritage with multiple parades, dances, concerts, a rodeo, and more over several days in February. Still an annual event, Charro Days has grown to include additional festivals and traditions and continues to draw visitors to the celebration each year. The images below were taken as a parade moved through downtown Brownsville in 1948 and are a part of the L. L. Cook Company collection at the State Archives, which is available online in the Texas Digital Archive (TDA).
For questions about TSLAC collections please contact our reference staff at email@example.com or 512-564-5455.
The Nacogdoches settlement in Northeast Texas, named for the Caddoan “Nacogdoche” tribe that inhabited the area, once served as the government seat for Spanish and Mexican colonial ambitions in East Texas. On the eve of the Texas Revolution (1836), the territory governed from Nacogdoches extended from the town of Anahuac in the South, the Trinity River to the West, the Red River to the North, and Louisiana to the East [see 1835 map in TSLAC collection]. Colonial records remained at the Nacogdoches county courthouse through the Republic and statehood eras until their transfer to state custody in 1850. Adolphus Sterne, the House member that introduced the resolution to transfer the documents for their historical value, had served as an alcalde of the Ayuntamiento of Nacogdoches during the colonial period.
The “Nacogdoches Archives” was the name given to this original transfer of documents from county to state custody. These records are not a complete record of the Spanish and Mexican administrations in East Texas. When the Department of Nacogdoches (the larger political unit that included both the settlement and the municipality of Nacogdoches and most of East Texas) was created from the Department of Bexar in 1831 and government records were physically separated according to the new geographical divisions, evidence suggests that items from both departments were intermingled to some degree. (The Bexar Archives are available at the University of Texas at Austin and at the Bexar County Clerk’s Office.) In addition, not all colonial records at Nacogdoches were transferred in 1850: some remained at the county level.
Since 1850, the “Nacogdoches Archives” has been held by three state agencies: Texas Department of State (1850-1876), Texas Department of Agriculture, Insurance, Statistics, and History (1876-1909), and Texas State Library and Archives Commission (previously named the Texas Library and Historical Commission)(1909-present). The documents remained stored in tin boxes until 1878 when they were inventoried and ordered according to the government organizational structure of the colonial period. When Robert Bruce Blake began his monumental 89-volume transcription of the archives in the 1920s, the documents had been rearranged in chronological order and expanded with Spanish language materials from other collections. In the 1980s, a significant project headed by Dr. G. Douglas Inglis aimed to reverse changes made to the collection over the preceding 130 years.
Spanning tens of thousands of pages, the Nacogdoches Archives are a rich resource, but given that the documents are written by hand and primarily in Spanish with no comprehensive index, accessing the contents of the collection can require time, patience, and education. For the academic researcher, the records chronicle the intersection of colonialism, cultures, politics, commerce, and settlement in a rugged, rapidly changing frontier. For family researchers, certain types of records document residency, military service, life events, and lived experiences in colonial East Texas. Prior to using the records, a brief introduction to the various resources providing enhanced access–transcriptions, translations, indexes–can save time and improve search efforts.
Accessing the Nacogdoches Archives
Original Spanish documents: microfilm and online The Nacogdoches Archives documents were microfilmed following their 1980s rearrangement. Original materials from the Nacogdoches Archives are not pulled for research purposes unless the film copy is illegible. An inventory of the microfilm, including a brief content note for each reel, can be found on the TSLAC website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/nacogdoches.html#microfilm. Microfilm access options include:
TSLAC Austin location. The Nacogdoches Archives microfilm may be viewed at our TSLAC Austin location. The Reference Reading Room offers microfilm viewers with printing capabilities as well as USB ports for downloading images to personal flash drives. For useful information prior to visiting the library, please visit our website: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/arc/visit.html
Interlibrary Loan (ILL). You can request to borrow reels through your local library for viewing at that library. After you have identified the desired reels, please see our website for more information about ILL: https://www.tsl.texas.gov/landing/ill.html
Ancestry.com. Ancestry.com digitized the Nacogdoches Archives microfilm and provides access online. The database containing these records is Nacogdoches, Texas, Spanish and Mexican Government Records, 1729-1836. Texas residents may access this database for free through Ancestry.com Texas. TSLAC also provides free on-site access to Ancestry.com as do many local libraries nationwide.
Transcribed documents Robert Bruce Blake produced several series of publications including materials from the Nacogdoches Archives; however, his most important was the 89-volume series begun in 1928. In his transcription, which includes many English language subject headings, but few translations, the original Nacogdoches Archives are thought to be included in their entirety (confirmation would require a comparison of between 20 and 30 thousand pages). The series was also supplemented with Spanish language documents from other collections as well as Nacogdoches documents from the Bexar archives. These transcripts are only available for on-site use at the TSLAC Austin location and can be located in our catalog.
Robert Bruce (R.B.) Blake Collection In addition to the Nacogdoches Archives transcripts, Blake also produced a 93-volume series of transcribed material referred to as the Robert Bruce (R. B.) Blake Collection, or the “Blake transcripts.” This series includes items from the Nacogdoches archives, the Nacogdoches County Clerks’ office, the General Land Office, the Bexar Archives, and additional archival sources. Although only select documents from the Nacogdoches Archives are included, this series is more widely available at various institutions and online.
Additional publications held by TSLAC that include indexes or transcriptions of Nacogdoches Archives documents include (but are not limited to) census records, entrance certificates, minutes, book of foreigners, and items related to East Texas.
For questions about these materials please contact our reference staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-463-5455.
Carefoot, Jean. The Nacogdoches Archives. Undated printed manuscript. 8 pages. TSLAC Genealogy Vertical Files, Internal Document. Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Austin, Texas.
Long, Christopher. “Nacogdoches County”. Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed August 03, 2022. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/nacogdoches-county.
McDonald, Archie P. “Nacogdoches, TX”. Handbook of Texas Online Accessed August 03, 2022. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/nacogdoches-tx.
Texas State Gazette. (Austin, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 13, Ed. 1, Saturday, November 17, 1849, newspaper, November 17, 1849; Austin, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth80904/m1/4/?q=nacogdoches+records: accessed June 22, 2022), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History. P . 4
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with TSLAC Resources
The Texas State Library and Archives Commission’s (TSLAC) Archives and Information Services Division holds a wealth of primary source archival documents, genealogy research resources, books, and more to spark your own research. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, let’s kick things off with an overview of a few of our holdings that may be of interest.
State Archives Collections
The Hispanic heritage of Texas is integral to our history. Our flagship building, the Lorenzo de Zavala State Archives and Library Building, located in the Capitol Complex in downtown Austin, is named for Manuel Lorenzo Justiniano de Zavala y Sáenz, first vice president of the Republic of Texas. TSLAC holds many original documents relating to Zavala’s life and work, including writings, correspondence, documents from the Texas Revolution and early Republic period. Explore these on our Giants of Texas History: Lorenzo de Zavala website.
The significance of the Hispanic foundation of Texas is also reflected in part through early records held by the State Archives. The Nacogdoches Archives is a collection that includes 18th century Spanish colonial and Mexican national government records. TSLAC also has in our holdings the draft 1836 constitution for the republic with the bill of rights both in English and Spanish.
Correspondence, publications, broadsides and maps in Spanish illustrate how significant Hispanic culture is to what is now the state of Texas. Last year, we highlighted the Harry Lund collection in our Hispanic Heritage Month blog post. The Harry Lund collection contains more than 200 photos from the Morales Studio depicting the people of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in the first half of the 20th century. This collection is now fully digitized and browseable in the Texas Digital Archive (more below). Learn more about how to explore the Prints and Photographs Collections by visiting our research guide on the Archives and Reference website.
The Texas State Archives preserves and documents the heritage and culture of Texas by identifying, collecting, and making available for research the permanently valuable official records of Texas government, as well as other significant historical resources. Maintaining the official history of Texas government, the State Archives includes archival government records dating back to the 18th century, as well as newspapers, journals, books, manuscripts, photographs, historical maps, and other historical resources. By these records, all three branches of Texas government are accountable to the people. Taken together, the holdings of the Texas State Archives provide a historical foundation for present-day governmental actions and are an important resource for Texas studies.
Browse hundreds of archival collections, maps, prints and photographs, and more on our website. We make many thousands of digital resources available, as well—visit our Online Collections to learn about accessing records, databases, and Ancestry.com through TSLAC (free for Texas residents). There is also a wealth of curated online exhibits available to view on our website, with topics ranging from historic flags to women’s suffrage.
The Texas Digital Archive (TDA) manages, preserves, and facilitates access to the electronic records collections of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, including those transferred by state agencies or digitized by the State Archives. The TDA now makes more than 5.5 million records of state government, as well as business, family, and organizational papers, prints and photographs, artifacts, audio, and video available for free online at www.tsl.texas.gov/texasdigitalarchive, with more being added every day. All records in the TDA are unrestricted, and are thus available for public use, including for scholarly research, journalism, teaching using primary source documents, genealogy and family history, and creative arts purposes. Patrons may browse collections, perform keyword searches, and view and download records through the online portal.
An overview page listing all of our collections—archival and historical, digital, exhibits, genealogical, library, local, maps, newspapers, oral histories, and photographs—is also available on our website.
Genealogy Resources at TSLAC
Vital statistics indexes are an important part of the genealogical resources available at the library. While we do not have access to the certificates themselves, the library does own selected indexes to Texas births, deaths, marriages and divorces. The indexes are available for on-site use.
By searching the library catalog, many of TSLAC’s titles and holdings can be discovered from the comfort and convenience of home.In the library catalog, you can find publications covering topics such as: Texas history, genealogy, United States federal documents, and much more! In fact, the State Archives’ finding aids can also be found in the library catalog. Check out our previous blog post, Out of the Stacks and into the Catalog: The Basics, which explores the features, functions, and various search strategies that you can use for navigating the library catalog.
The Texas Talking Book Program (TBP) recommends titles on its blog. The “Staff Picks” series can be browsed going back to 2012, and many of the titles focus on Texas, the Southwest, the border region, and several titles are specifically recommended as Hispanic Heritage Month reads.
Texas Center for the Book Programs
The Texas Center for the Book, based at TSLAC, chooses a Great Read each year to promote statewide. The 2018 Texas Great Read, Shame the Stars by Guadalupe García McCall, is set during the explosive years of Mexico’s revolution, and has been called “a Texas reimagining of Romeo and Juliet.” Information about this book, as well as a video interview with the author and educator resources, are available on the Texas Center for the Book’s website.
This summer, the Texas Center for the Book launched the 2021 Literary Landmarks Roundup to double the number of landmarks in Texas. Four new sites were announced in August, including the Dr. Gloria E. Anzaldúa Literary Landmark at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Library In Edinburg, Texas. Anzaldúa’s book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, published in 1987 became a foundational work in the areas of border studies, Chicana feminism, and LGBTQ rights. A ceremony unveiling the new Literary Landmark will be held this fall. Stay tuned to the Literary Landmarks website for more information.
This year, Texans celebrated 25 years of Children’s Day, Book Day / Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, a national initiative founded in 1996 by author and literacy advocate Pat Mora in celebration of children, culture, and literature. The Texas Center for the Book coined the term Lone Star Día for the Texas event and encourages statewide participation. On even numbered years, grants for the First Book Marketplace are made available through the Texas Center for the Book. Nationally, libraries, schools, churches and organizations are encouraged to discover “bookjoy” year-round—most events occur around the official national celebration, April 30th. TSLAC Information about the 2022 celebration will be posted in the new year. Meanwhile, a wealth of resources is available year-round on the Lone Star Día website, including a video from founder Pat Mora, information documents, handouts, downloadable artwork, and more. Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by starting to plan for your community’s 2022 Día now!
We celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with a look at a photograph collection from the Rio Grande Valley. The Harry Lund collection contains more than 200 photos from the Morales Studio depicting the people of the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) in the first half of the 20th century. The “RGV” developed along the borderlands of Mexico and the southernmost point of Texas, with the town of Brownsville serving as a hub of commerce and social activity. Though the individuals are mostly unidentified and photos undated, we are able to experience visually the lifestyle and culture of the region for a population of Hispanic Texans at the turn of the last century.
Learn more about how to explore the Prints and Photographs Collections by visiting our research guide on the Archives & Reference website.